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Posts Tagged ‘ballet’

NYCB Soloist Justin Peck Becomes Company’s Resident Choreographer

Justin Peck; photo by Andrea Mohin/New York Times

Justin Peck; photo by Andrea Mohin/New York Times

New York City Ballet soloist Justin Peck has been appointed resident choreographer just two years after creating his first piece for the company, reported the New York Times.

Peck’s appointment, announced on Wednesday and effective immediately, makes him the second person to hold this position at NYCB, after Christopher Wheeldon, who was the company’s resident choreographer from 2001 to 2008.

The appointment requires Peck, who will continue to dance with NYCB, to create two ballets a year for the next three years. He will also be able to create ballets for other companies—upcoming premieres of his work are planned for Pacific Northwest Ballet in November and Miami City Ballet in March.

“I’m ecstatic,” Peck, 26, said in a telephone interview from Saratoga Springs where NYCB was preparing for a week of performances, including his most recent ballet, Everywhere We Go. “It has been a dream or goal of mine to have a more permanent place as a dance maker, and City Ballet is my ideal place and my home in the dance mecca of New York.”

Wheeldon and Alexei Ratmansky (who was offered the resident choreographer position at NYCB after Wheeldon left, but went to American Ballet Theatre as its artist in residence in 2009) are generally considered the major ballet choreographers of the last decade.

Peck’s work “perfectly captures the spirit and dynamic of today’s generation of dancers at City Ballet,” said Wheeldon by telephone from Paris. “They are extremely lucky to have him.”

To see the full story, visit



Entire San Francisco Ballet Company In Paris For Festival Performances

San Francisco Ballet in Caprice;  photo by Erik Tomasson

San Francisco Ballet in Caprice;
photo by Erik Tomasson

San Francisco Ballet is in Paris for an unprecedented 17-day engagement at the Théâtre du Châtelet, beginning on July 10, and is featured in the Les Etés de la Danse Festival, reported San Francisco Classical Voice.

The company program is varied and extensive, compressing virtually the entire home season into the festival days. The entire company—principals, soloists, corps de ballet—is participating. A notable homecoming is that of Mathilde Froustey, on extended leave from the Paris Opera Ballet; she will stay with SF Ballet at least through 2015.

Opening night is an exceptionally generous gala. The program: Renato Zanella’s Alles Walzer, Val Caniparoli’s No Other, the pas de deux from Kenneth MacMillan’s Concerto, Helgi Tomasson’s Chaconne for Piano and Two Dancers, Yuri Possokhov’s Classical Symphony, the pas de deux from George Balanchine’s Agon, Johan Kobborg’s Les Lutins, Frederick Ashton’s Voices of Spring, the second movement pas de deux from Balanchine’s Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet, Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain, and the fourth movement and finale from Balanchine’s Symphony in C.

From the opening until the July 26 closing concert, SF Ballet will present some three dozen works.

Interesting tidbit: Théâtre du Châtelet was originally used for drama performances. Beginning in April 1876, the stage version of Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days, adapted by Verne and Adolphe d’Ennery, began a run spanning 64 years and 2,195 performances (not continuously), until the Nazi occupation of Paris in 1940 closed the production permanently.

To see the original story, visit



Dancers, Fans, Ready to Wish ABT a Happy 75th Anniversary

Gillian Murphy and Marcelo Gomes celebrate ABT’s 75th anniversary; photo by Gene Schiavone

Gillian Murphy and Marcelo Gomes celebrate ABT’s 75th anniversary; photo by Gene Schiavone

American Ballet Theatre’s upcoming 75th anniversary celebration will feature works by choreographers most closely associated with ABT, including Agnes de Mille, Antony Tudor, Michel Fokine, Frederick Ashton, Léonide Massine, Jerome Robbins, Twyla Tharp, and Alexei Ratmansky.

These works, such as Tudor’s Jardin aux Lilas and Robbins’ Fancy Free, will serve to showcase the company’s wide-ranging style, historic legacy, and continuing innovation. Special anniversary events commemorating the company’s history will be outlined in upcoming announcements.

ABT’s fall season at New York City’s David H. Koch Theater, set for October 22 to November 2, will include a world premiere by Liam Scarlett, and a new production of Raymonda Divertissements, staged by Kevin McKenzie and Irina Kolpakova after Marius Petipa.

ABT principal dancers include Isabella Boylston, Paloma Herrera, Julie Kent, Gillian Murphy, Veronika Part, Xiomara Reyes, Hee Seo, Herman Cornejo, Marcelo Gomes, David Hallberg, Daniil Simkin, Cory Stearns, and James Whiteside.

Fall season tickets, priced from $20, go on sale July 14 at, the Koch box office, or at 212.496.0600.



Reports of Bolshoi Director’s Health Scare Greatly Exaggerated

Sergei Filin; photo by Jesse Dittmar for the Washington Post

Sergei Filin;
photo by Jesse Dittmar for the Washington Post

Bolshoi Ballet artistic director Sergei Filin, 43, has recovered from an acute allergic reaction to an eye treatment that sent him to the hospital Friday, according to the Russian news agency Interfax.

Filin, who was nearly blinded in a 2013 acid attack, wasted no time getting back to the theater for rehearsals, an associate said Sunday.

The Washington Post passed along the Interfax report that Filin was discharged Sunday from Moscow’s Sklifosovsky Research Institute and is in “normal” condition. He then returned to rehearsals at the Bolshoi Theater, where he is overseeing a new production of The Taming of the Shrew set to premiere July 4.

On Friday, an allergic reaction caused swelling, “something similar to the attack from allergy to peanuts,” said Filin’s friend and former adviser at the Bolshoi, Dilyara Timergazina, in an e-mail. “His condition was immediately taken care of, but it was decided to take him to the hospital for further observation and detoxication. He is fine now.”

Interfax reported that the allergic condition is called Quincke’s edema.

Reports on Filin’s condition varied over the weekend, with some web sites reporting he was in grave or critical condition, or in a heart unit. Timergazina said these reports were false.

To see the original story, visit



Pristine and Poised Korean Dancers Win Big at USA International Ballet Competition

Jeong Hansol in “Forgot Something”; photo by Richard Finkelstein

Jeong Hansol in “Forgot Something”;
photo by Richard Finkelstein

Nearly half the nine dancers representing the Republic of Korea are going home with hardware from the 2014 USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi, scoring more medal wins than any other country.

The Clarion-Ledger reported that only two American dancers, both in the women’s junior division (ages 15–18)—Gisele Bethea and Mackenzie Richter—leaped into the medals lineup. Bethea won gold and Richter won silver.

In what IBC international jury chair and dance legend Edward Villella termed “the finest of the fine,” medalists and other award winners were announced Friday morning following two weeks of intense competition at Thalia Mara Hall.

Republic of Korea’s Jeong Hansol, 21, took gold in the IBC’s most competitive field, the senior men’s division, with the help of his comedic contemporary piece, “Forgot Something,” appearing in tailcoat, hat, and hot-pink briefs as he illustrated a near-universal nightmare. Korea’s Byul Yun, 19, who won silver, said through an interpreter that he’d been to many competitions in the world, “but this one was one of the best. . . . This competition was one I dreamed of when I started dancing.”

Brazil scored three bronzes with dancers who, during the competitive rounds, captivated audiences that responded with a near rock-star welcome and audible buzz.

Along with her gold medal in the senior division, Japanese dancer Shiori Kase, 22, a soloist with the English National Ballet in London, was also taking home a global outlook on dance and this reminder: “I realize that it’s not just about technique. It’s about artistry, it’s about musicality. It made me think, again, that’s very important.”

To see the original story, visit



Black and White Vintage Photos Depict Ballet’s Glamorous Past

Vintage ballet photography; photo by Serge Lido

Vintage ballet photography;
photo by Serge Lido

For ballet fans, there’s nothing more fun than perusing a collection of black and white photographs from ballet’s glamorous past. Vintage Everyday has posted an interesting assortment of backstage, onstage, and publicity shots from the 1950s and 1960s by Russian-French photographer Serge Lido (1906–1984).

Though based in Paris, Lido gained an international reputation for his dance photos, which were published in magazines and also collected in book form, such as La Danse (1947) and Les Étoiles de la danse dans le monde (1975).

To view the 15 photos of Margot Fonteyn and others, visit



Rhoden and Matvienko Team Up for The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby artistic and production team; photo courtesy Dance Informa

The Great Gatsby artistic and production team;
photo courtesy Dance Informa

Dance Informa reports that three renowned artists are coming together to create and produce a feature-length ballet version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic The Great Gatsby. Set to premiere in Russia in October 2014, the production has plans to soon thereafter embark on a world tour.

Complexions Contemporary Ballet co-artistic director Dwight Rhoden will be bringing his creative eye to the team. Joining Rhoden will be pop composer Konstantin Meladze, and project star and art director Denis Matvienko, former Mariinsky Ballet principal and ABT guest.

Matvienko, who will star as Jay Gatsby, underwent a major surgery on his leg in April and recently announced his return to performing. Denis Matvienko’s sister, Alyona Matvienko, will serve as the project’s producer.

The first official auditions for The Great Gatsby ballet were held at the Mariinsky Theatre last month. It has not been announced who will partner Matvienko and dance the role of Daisy Buchanan.

To read the full story, visit




New York City Ballet 9/11 Video Tribute Wins Video Competition

Maria Kowroski and Ask la Cour in After the Rain; photo by Davi Russo, courtesy Adweek

Maria Kowroski and Ask la Cour in After the Rain;
photo by Davi Russo, courtesy Adweek

New York City Ballet was in Copenhagen when the news arrived on Sept. 11, 2001, that the Twin Towers had been attacked. Heartbroken and almost 4,000 miles away from home, ballet master in chief Peter Martins announced to the audience that the company would not dance that night. He promised they would return the next day—and they did. “We were so moved by this story,” recalls Peter Hempel, CEO of ad agency DDB New York. “We wanted a way to capture the spirit of what New York City Ballet believes in, which is new beginnings.”

To do so, DDB, with the help of RadicalMedia, shot NYCB principal dancers Maria Kowroski and Ask la Cour performing a segment from After the Rain, by Christopher Wheeldon, at sunrise atop the new 4 World Trade Center. Since being uploaded on Sept. 12, 2013, the tribute has been viewed upwards of 1.1 million times on YouTube, and is the second most-viewed clip in the NYCB site’s history.

It’s also why Adweek named the video the Gold winner in the Production category of Adweek’s first Watch Awards competition, which celebrates the best work and talent in online video.

Rather than rely on the gimmicks many filmmakers use with ballet dancers (close-ups of toes on pointe, elongated limbs), Hempel—who himself trained with NYCB in his youth—says DDB and Radical involved the choreographer and dancers, with an eye on capturing intricate technique. The clip was filmed in one steady take to mimic the experience of watching a live performance. “We were able to not make the mistakes that someone who doesn’t understand ballet would,” says Hempel.

“It was an honor to offer this tribute to the city of New York, and we are grateful to the team at DDB for their creativity, sensitivity and skill in realizing a project that has resonated with so many,” says Karen Girty, NYCB’s senior director of marketing and media.

To see the original story, visit




2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Polished Pirouettes

By David Arce

Tip 1
When broken down to its simplest form, a pirouette is a quick passé with a relevé and a spot—period. It doesn’t matter how many spots are done. Doing fewer pirouettes with a proper classical ballet finish is always preferable to multiple pirouettes with a sloppy finish.

Students who can’t finish multiple pirouettes cleanly in a center combination most likely cannot end in the same lunge they can when doing a passé relevé or single pirouette. Also, some tend to end their pirouettes in only one position (usually a derrière lunge).

To address these problems, I have students perform a single pirouette with a controlled balance and finish in a predetermined, specific way (e.g., a lunge on any axis away from the supporting leg: forward, à la seconde (in both directions), derrière, and all quadrants in between. I stand in the quadrant the dancer is prone to fall in or prefers to end in and tell him or her not to hit me.

With repetition of this exercise, students will finish a single pirouette in the quadrant you choose, regaining balance and a proper finishing position.


Tip 2
During a turn, the dancer must not only hold the position (coupe, passé, etc.) but find more length through the body. Often students achieve the correct position at the beginning of the turn (from preparation to turning position) but then “sit” while rotating. Remind them that they must continue to strive for a lifted, lengthened, and stronger position as they turn.

If I notice “sitting” in a pirouette, during relevé exercises at the barre I have the dancers visualize growing taller—this is the base for the energy they must maintain during turns. By finding more turnout, a higher relevé, more length in the spine, and a squarer and higher working leg position, the students will produce better balances and improve their position in pirouettes.




What’s up in the dance community

Atlanta’s Own “That Girl”


Ofelia de La Valette, who opened an adult-focused dance studio, is featured in Marlo Thomas’ latest book. Photo by David Rams/David Rams Photography

When Ofelia de La Valette was a ponytailed kid growing up in New York City in the mid-‘60s, she wanted to be That Girl.

She’d watch the popular TV show of that name, idolizing its star, Marlo Thomas, “and thinking how amazing it would be to grow up and be independent and funny and smart” like Thomas’ character, she told Dance Studio Life. “Of all the TV shows or cultural influences, hers was the most impactful.”

Imagine de La Valette’s surprise two years ago when Thomas’ representatives called and began a year-long process of interviews. Apparently de La Valette’s story—born in Havana, Cuba, in 1960 to a wealthy family that fled, penniless, to NYC when she was 3; growing up poor, discovering dance at age 35, opening a studio at age 46 for adult beginners—fit the theme of Thomas’ latest book. Last month, when It Ain’t Over . . . Till It’s Over: Reinventing Your Life—and Realizing Your Dreams—Anytime, at Any Age was published, de La Valette was one of 60 women profiled in it.

De La Valette started her Atlanta studio, Dance 101, in 2004 with 36 adult students. Today her two locations serve up ballet, tap, jazz, fitness, musical theater, and more, to approximately 1,500 adults each week.

“Something magical happens to people when they dance,” she said. That Girl herself apparently agrees.





A Spitball o’ Both Your Houses


Photo by Alanna Garcia

What started the Capulet and Montague feud that led to the tragic climax of Romeo and Juliet? Was it a kickball game? Or its origin might have been an exchange of insults: “Your wife is so annoying.” Oh yeah? “Your wife is mad ugly, like you.” Or perhaps a disagreement over which family had the better baked goods was to blame.

Shakespeare didn’t say, so in American Ballet Theatre’s “Make a Ballet” program this spring, 75 fifth-graders “wrote prologues to the prologue” said Dennis J. Walters, ABT’s associate director of education and training.

For 17 years, this in-school residency program has introduced underserved New York City schoolchildren to ballet not just by getting them dancing, but also by immersing them in the many components that interact to create the art, from production to administration to design. This spring, ABT teaching artists assisted students as they discussed Romeo and Juliet’s themes, wrote soliloquies, built set pieces, and created short dances.

For a finale, 25 selected students performed their version of the ballet alongside ABT dancers in a Young People’s Ballet Workshop at the Metropolitan Opera House. “It’s not always the best dancers we select; it’s the kids who are working hard,” Walters told Dance Studio Life. “We’re not identifying dancers. What’s important to us with this program is that we’re exposing students to something new and wonderful.”


Humor Moves to Hubbard Street


Photo by Todd Rosenberg

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago thinks dance should be a laughing matter, and this fall the contemporary company plans to prove it.

The company will create an original production with Chicago’s famed comedy troupe The Second City, which has nurtured comedians such as John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Mike Myers, Steve Carrell, Tina Fey, and Stephen Colbert.

When the collaboration was announced earlier this year, the dates for the show were set—October 16 to 19—but what would appear onstage was still up in the air. Inspired by the successful pairing of The Second City and Lyric Opera of Chicago, which resulted in a revue of comedic sketches and satirical vignettes, Hubbard Street officials were certain its creative minds would click with those at The Second City.

“Improvisation is a key part of our DNA on both sides,” Hubbard Street artistic director Glenn Edgerton said in a release.





Applause for Lerman and Brown

At the opening night celebration for the Dance/USA Annual Conference, Liz Lerman and D. David Brown will be recognized for their lifelong devotion to the dance field.

Lerman’s wide-ranging career in dance included an early ’70s stint as a go-go dancer, the 1976 creation of the multifaceted artists’ collaborative Dance Exchange, a MacArthur Fellowship in 2002, and a recent turn as artist in residence at Harvard University.

Brown danced up through Boston Ballet’s ranks before embarking on an equally successful career in company management, both in several positions with Boston and as executive director of Pacific Northwest Ballet.

On June 18, Lerman will receive the Honor Award for her extraordinary leadership, while Brown will receive the Ernie (Ian “Ernie” Horvath) Award for his work behind the scenes that has empowered and supported dance artists.


A Fitting Finale

It’s poetically fitting, choreographer Trey McIntyre says, that his respected contemporary company, Trey McIntyre Project, will end its life where it began—at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.

After a fruitful decade of creating dance, McIntyre announced this winter he was disbanding his company to pursue other artistic avenues, such as film and photography.

Ella Baff, the Pillow’s executive and artistic director, said a backstage conversation with McIntyre led to a handful of Pillow performances by a pickup company of his favorite dancers in 2005 and 2006, then to Trey McIntyre Project’s official full-time debut there in 2008.

After saying goodbye in a cross-country tour this spring, TMP’s farewell shows will be held June 25 to 29 at the Pillow’s Ted Shawn Theatre, Becket, Massachusetts.




Ballet Scene | Shuffles and Chassés

Thomas Armour Youth Ballet’s Tap Team, led by teacher Natasha Williams (second from left), boasts 23 members who perform at events such as the TEDx Youth@Miami empowerment program. Photo by Jeff Schweiger

Thomas Armour Youth Ballet’s Tap Team, led by teacher Natasha Williams (second from left), boasts 23 members who perform at events such as the TEDx Youth@Miami empowerment program. Photo by Jeff Schweiger

Tap meets ballet at Thomas Armour Youth Ballet, and the results are anything but mixed
By Ryan P. Casey

You wouldn’t expect to find tap among the offerings at Thomas Armour Youth Ballet, a Miami studio rooted in ballet since 1951. But today this classical ballet school, formerly called The Miami Conservatory, encourages students ages 7 and up to study tap and ballet; for the members of its Tap Team, both forms of dance are required. The result? A win-win scenario.

Tap takes root

According to Miami native and TAYB teacher (and alum) Natasha Williams, 27, the birth of the tap team marked the beginning of a stronger tap presence in her home city. “There were lots of opportunities for dancers who studied modern or ballet,” she says, “but no groups or companies doing tap performances. I wanted my students to have something to work for besides the annual recital. And, as they get older, maybe someday I’ll have my own company.”

Ballet helps [students] learn to use their upper body and arms, which is essential for tap. They develop proper alignment and balance, they’re able to turn, and they know more terminology. —Natasha Williams

TAYB’s expansion into tap happened in 2007, when Williams stopped in to take a ballet class at her former studio. Unbeknownst to her, she was walking into a new job opportunity. The studio’s director, Ruth Wiesen, wanted to diversify the curriculum, and she asked Williams, who had studied tap, jazz, and ballet since childhood, to teach tap.


Thomas Armour Youth Ballet’s Tap Team, led by teacher Natasha Williams (second from left), boasts 23 members who perform at events such as the TEDx Youth@Miami empowerment program.
Photo by Jeff Schweiger

Williams chose to focus on tap after graduating from New World School of the Arts and studying business at Florida International University; she subsequently attended the inaugural tap program at The School at Jacob’s Pillow in 2010.

Mutual benefits

Now TAYB’s sole tap instructor, Williams says ballet is a boon to her students. “Ballet helps them learn to use their upper body and arms, which is essential for tap. They develop proper alignment and balance, they’re able to turn, and they know more terminology.” That allows her to “incorporate traditional dance moves and basic jazz steps into choreography, not just tap footwork,” she says. And there are more benefits: the students’ “attention to detail improves,” Williams says. And, she adds, “tap helps them musically in ballet. They can figure out the timing of the steps, or identify whether they’re dancing in waltz or 4/4 time.”

Ballet teacher Rosalyn Deshauters agrees. For ballet students, the benefits of tap include “understanding of rhythms,” she says. “My students really get excited by challenging rhythms and quick movement, so I remind them of the steps they’ve learned in tap.” Plus, Deshauters points out, “Many tap steps can be related to ballet steps—like the shuffle, for instance. The in-and-out movement of the leg bending at the knee is like a frappé, as one of my third-grade students pointed out one day.”

“A lot of young ballet students sit back in their heels; tap forces them to be more forward on their feet,” Wiesen adds. “Tap also gives them instant gratification because they can make sounds, and they move across the floor sooner. And it’s a safer choice for male students who are struggling with sexual identity, or who might have fathers or uncles who don’t approve of dance. If I can hook them with tap, maybe I can get them into ballet.”

Tap Team advances

Since 2010, TAYB has offered tap in three levels. Due to space and time constraints at the main studio, all tap classes are held at the school’s satellite locations.

By 2011, some tappers had progressed to an advanced level—but there were no youth companies or performance opportunities for them in the city. So Williams pitched the idea of the Tap Team, which would give the studio’s most skilled hoofers more training and additional shows, including those for which they could earn community-service hours for their academic schools. With Wiesen’s blessing, an eight-member team was formed and quickly flourished; it now boasts 23 members, most of whom are scholarship students. In 2012, Williams and the ensemble performed at a TEDx event; at the countywide Young Talent Big Dreams competition they nabbed a win in the group dance category. Several professional tappers, including Chloe Arnold, Sarah Reich, and Jason Holley, have taught master classes at TAYB.

Through history’s lens

The studio’s curriculum is designed around a framework that incorporates the history of music, art, and dance. Each year all classes explore influences from a certain time period. Last season’s focus was the 1900s through the 1950s: in ballet class, students read about dancers like Margot Fonteyn and choreographer Michel Fokine and watched films of ballets such as Les Sylphides and The Prodigal Son. Tappers studied jazz of the period, from the ragtime of Scott Joplin to the swing of Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson, and other legends.

“Studying dance history and music history always resonated more with me than studying dates and wars and emperors,” Wiesen says. “I decided to take that holistic approach with our students, to show them how art has reflected what has happened in the world, and how world events have affected art.”

Students recently finished their study of the period from the 1950s to the present. Deshauters enlightened her dancers on Alvin Ailey and his most famous piece, Revelations, while Williams challenged students to watch footage of famous tap dancers and try to re-create some of their steps. Other classes listened to Motown music and read books on Martin Luther King Jr. and segregation.


Thomas Amour tappers keep the beat at the Betty T. Ferguson Recreation Complex in Miami Gardens, one of four outreach sites. Photo courtesy Thomas Armour Youth Ballet Tap Team

Students have also completed art projects: collages inspired by the study of Matisse, flowered headpieces influenced by Frida Kahlo, and murals in the style of iconic 1980s artist Keith Haring, to name a few.

“They learn about history and the world through dance,” Williams says. “And since all the teachers follow the same curriculum for technique and history, a student who switches classes won’t be confused or study something radically different from what they are used to. It makes the studio more cohesive.”


Ballet and tap work together onstage as well as in the curriculum. For the past two years, TAYB has collaborated in performances with the Greater Miami Youth Symphony, a community-based orchestra program that provides students ages 5 to 18 with professional training and performance experience. In 2012, two ballet dancers and two tap dancers presented a piece to “Summer” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

“Seeing the ballet dancers perform their steps and then the tappers perform their steps to the same music shows the diversity of movement and music interpretation,” Deshauters says. “It’s good for the kids to see that there is more than one way to interpret music, and anyone can do it. You don’t have to label yourself as a tap dancer or ballet dancer. Even though a piece of music sounds a certain way, you can dance to it however you want.”

Last year, a rendition of the Benny Goodman classic “Sing, Sing, Sing” combined ballet, tap, jazz, and modern (offered only to older, advanced students). All of the performers were Tap Team members, whose versatility Williams attributes to their strong cross-training.

“People think tappers can only dance fast and staccato, and ballet can only be allegro or adagio,” Wiesen says. “They’re surprised to learn otherwise. The dancers and the musicians have a real connection. They all work as a team.”

It’s a team effort that keeps TAYB’s award-winning programs running year after year for more than 1,100 students in five locations.

“We do our very best to help kids all around,” Williams says. “Whatever it takes to get kids to class, we’ll do it.”

“I’ve always felt that tap would be a good partner with ballet,” Wiesen says. “They enhance each other. And my students benefit from a more well-rounded dance education.”

Scholarships + Outreach = Success

TAYB’s Tap Team could not exist without the aid of the studio’s scholarship program, which owner Ruth Wiesen, then a relatively new instructor, founded in 1988 as a way to help more students access Miami’s magnet programs in the arts. Funded largely by The Children’s Trust, a property tax–driven funding source that serves the children of Miami-Dade County, the scholarships ensure high-quality dance training for nearly 600 students from low-income families, who are charged only an annual fee of $10. The dancers also receive leotards, tights, and dance shoes.

“Quality classical dance training is not within reach for a majority of children in our community,” Wiesen says. “Classes are expensive, and the schools are located in the most advantaged areas of the community.”

Along with their dance education, TAYB scholarship students receive assistance through The Children’s Trust with issues that affect them and their families and their success beyond the classroom, including tutoring, medical and dental care, lunch money, legal fees, bus fare, and audition coaching for middle and high school arts programs. TAYB also serves as a conduit to agencies that can intervene in situations such as immigration, domestic violence, drug or alcohol abuse, and sexual identity crises. The program once helped seek housing for a family whose home was condemned and demolished following extensive damage from Hurricane Irene.

Initially the scholarships helped only kids who lived close to the studio; with working parents or no family vehicle, many students could not attend until they were old enough to take public transportation. If the kids couldn’t come to the studio, Wiesen reasoned, the studio had to go to them. In 2000, she approached the principal of Morningside Elementary School in the neighborhood of Little Haiti, whom she knew to be an arts enthusiast, and learned that there was an unused classroom. It became the program’s first outreach site, the fourth and most recent of which opened at the Betty T. Ferguson Recreation Complex in Miami Gardens in 2011. TAYB pays no rent for these sites and provides the same teachers and curriculums as at the main studio.

“The long-term goal of the program is to ensure a college education for all students by laying a foundation of a strong work ethic, social skills, discipline, consistency, focus, and the ability to delay gratification,” says Wiesen.

All scholarship students graduate from high school: 98 percent of them attend college, while 2 percent pursue professional dance careers, according to Wiesen. In 2013, one graduating high school senior was admitted to The Juilliard School. Alumni of the scholarship program include Robert Battle, artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and several current and former members of Martha Graham Dance Company.


New York City Ballet’s Saratoga Springs Residency Grows from One Week to Two

New York City Ballet’s Ashley Boulder and Gonzalo Garcia in Saratoga Spring in 2013; photo by Michael P. Farrell/Times Union

New York City Ballet’s Ashley Boulder and Gonzalo Garcia in Saratoga Spring in 2013;
photo by Michael P. Farrell/Times Union

The New York City Ballet, which was forced by financial pressure to limit its Saratoga Performing Arts Center residency in Saratoga Springs, New York, to one week last summer and this year, will return for two weeks in 2015, SPAC management announced.

The Albany Times-Union said the ballet’s residency dates this year are July 8 to 12.

Marcia White, SPAC’s president and executive director, said last week that factors affecting the decision included cost savings realized by two summers of one-week residencies, renegotiated contracts between NYCB and its labor unions, and renewed fundraising efforts.

The ballet costs SPAC slightly more than $1 million per week to produce, of which 40 percent is covered by ticket sales; the rest must be made up by fundraising. Ballet attendance averaged 2,770 per performance last summer, White said, up 10 percent from 2012.

To see the original story, visit




Turkey Aims to Raise Profile of Ballet in Country by Hosting International Festival

4th International Istanbul Ballet and Competition Festival; photo by AA

4th International Istanbul Ballet and Competition Festival; photo by AA

The 4th International Istanbul Ballet Competition and Festival, organized to highlight Turkey’s artistic identity, kicks off June 21 at the Zorlu Center PSM with the ballet Count Dracula.

State Opera and Ballet general director Professor Rengim Gökmen, speaking to Anadolu Agency, said he gave great importance to the competition, adding, “I believe this competition makes great contributions to Turkish ballet in terms of opening it to the world. As of June 21, Istanbul will be the place where the heart of world ballet will beat.” The festival ends June 26 with a gala and award ceremony, according to The Hurriyet Daily News.

Gökmen noted that the competition gained the status of being a festival this year and important ballet pieces would be staged. “We want to draw the ballet world’s attention and promote the art of Turkish ballet because this is what we can boast about. Our wish is to use the techniques the world uses,” he said.

Ballet in Turkey began with Russian instructor Lydia Krassa Arzumanova, who opened a ballet studio in Istanbul in 1921. Dame Ninette de Valois, the founder of The Royal Ballet, was invited to Turkey in 1947 for the foundation of Turkish ballet, and in 1948, enrolled 11 male and 18 female students in an Istanbul ballet school.

Later, de Valois sent her assistant Alaine Phillips to Turkey. Phillips reorganized the choreography of Lev Ivanov and Enrico Cecchetti and staged Léo Delibes’ ballet Coppélia in 1961. This was the first ballet performed by Turkish ballet dancers.

To see the original story, visit



USA IBC Competitors Advance to Second Round of “Ballet Olympics”

USA IBC competitor Stephen Lock; photo by Richard Finkelstein

USA IBC competitor Stephen Lock;
photo by Richard Finkelstein

The first round of the 2014 USA International Ballet Competition, now underway in Jackson, Mississippi, concluded with 54 competitors advancing to Round II.

Competitors at the every-four-year international competition hail from Australia, South Africa, Korea, Mongolia, Russia, Brazil, Japan, China, Chile, Cuba, Portugal, Mexico, and elsewhere.

Semi-finalists from the USA advancing to Round II include Steven Loch, senior male; Melissa Gelfin, senior female; Aran Bell and Blake Kessler, junior males; and Gabrielle Chock, Gisele Bethea, Katherine Barkman, Mackenzie Richter, Olivia Gusti, and Victoria Wong, junior females.

Round II begins June 20 at 7:30pm at Thalia Mara Hall in Jackson, with sessions two and three on Saturday and Sunday evenings. The two-week competition concludes June 29.

The USA IBC is a two-week, “Olympic-style” competition where dancers vie for gold, silver, and bronze medals, cash awards, company contracts, and scholarships. For more information, visit or



NYCB Photos from 1972 Illustrate Genius of Igor Stravinsky, Balanchine

New York City Ballet in Symphony in Three Movements in 1972; photo by Gjon Mili/LIFE archives

New York City Ballet in Symphony in Three Movements in 1972; photo by Gjon Mili/LIFE archives

The Russian-born composer, conductor, and pianist Igor Stravinsky (1882–1971) remains, more than four decades after his death, a towering figure in 20th-century music. If he had written the music for only one of the three ballets for which he is best known—The Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1911) and The Rite of Spring (1913)—he would still be celebrated today paid tribute to Stravinsky this week on his birthday (b. June 17, 1882, in Lomonosov, Russia) through photos made in 1972 by Gjon Mili that capture New York City Ballet dancers during the company’s Stravinsky Festival, which featured ballets by George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins inspired by Stravinsky’s music.

In 1972, LIFE magazine wrote: “This tribute to Stravinsky, who died a year ago, was also a triumph for Balanchine, whose mastery of the dance is undiminished at 68. He personally created eight of the new ballets and collaborated with Jerome Robbins on another. ‘The important thing in ballet,’ Balanchine says, ‘is movement itself,’ a thought that photographer Gjon Mili vividly expresses in his photographs.”

To view a series of 15 photos, visit



SAB’s Annual Workshop Performance A Rare Opportunity to View Future Stars

School of American Ballet’s 2014 Workshop Performances; photo by Paul Kolnik

School of American Ballet’s 2014 Workshop Performances; photo by Paul Kolnik

The School of American Ballet’s Workshop Performance Benefit 2014 on June 3 celebrated 50 years of these annual performances and raised nearly $860,000 for scholarships and school programs, reported Elitedance.

The evening included the presentation of the Mae L. Wien Award for Outstanding Service to Dena Abergel, SAB faculty member and NYCB children’s ballet master, and Wien Awards for Outstanding Promise to Lyrica Blankfein, Christopher Grant, Baily Jones, and Addie Tapp.

“We are thrilled to announce that the Workshop Performance Benefit exceeded our original goal,” said Margie Van Dercook, SAB executive director. “We gathered to celebrate five decades of these annual performances—the culmination of each year’s work for the students—and the tremendous generosity of our attendees, donors, and sponsors.”

More than 800 guests attended the Workshop Performance, which, as SAB’s only public annual performance, is a rare opportunity to get a sneak preview of the ballet world’s up-and-coming young stars. The program included Balanchine’s Serenade (staged by Suki Schorer); and excerpts from Coppélia (staged by Dena Abergel, Yvonne Borree, Arch Higgins, Katrina Killian, Lisa de Ribere, Jock Soto, and Sheryl Ware), Swan Lake (staged by Darci Kistler), and Western Symphony (staged by Susan Pilarre).

To see the original story, visit



Young Pennsylvanian Dancers and Musicians Collaborate For First Time

Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet; photo by Jeremy Zimmerman

Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet;
photo by Jeremy Zimmerman

Friday night marks the first-ever collaboration between Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet and Harrisburg Symphony Youth Orchestra (HSYO), held as part of CPYB’s June Series, reported PennLive.

CPYB CEO and resident choreographer Alan Hineline and HSYO conductor Gregory Woodbridge had been talking for over a year to try and find a way for these high-level youth arts organizations to work together. They chose excerpts from Edvard Grieg’s “Holberg Suite” as a work that would be suitable for what Hineline calls a peer-to-peer collaboration.

Musicians and dancers have a different kind of mindset, Woodbridge said. “Dancers work so hard every day. The musicians meet once a week only, although they practice daily. This is an opportunity for them to learn from each other. The musicians are in awe of the dancers’ dedication and sheer physicality, and the dancers become aware of the fine motor skills that musicians need.”

For live dance, the players must be able to follow the conductor closely, understanding every gesture and nuance and be able to make quick changes in tempo at a moment’s notice, depending on what the conductor sees onstage. The collaboration results in something that is bigger and better for both groups than what they do as individual organizations, Woodbridge said.

CPYB’s June Series will run June 18 to 21 at 7pm at the Whitaker Center, 222 Market Street, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, with the HYSO collaboration featured during the “See The Music Dance” performance on June 20. Tickets are $16 to $30. To purchase, call 717.214.2787 or visit

To see the original story, visit



Royal Ballet Dancers to Skip Russia Tour in Protest of Anti-Gay Policies

Wayne McGregor rehearsing dancers from The Royal Ballet; photo courtesy the Independent

Wayne McGregor rehearsing dancers from The Royal Ballet; photo courtesy the Independent

The New York Times reports that two Royal Ballet dancers have decided not to join the Royal Ballet’s upcoming tour to Russia, as a protest against the anti-gay legislation supported by President Vladimir V. Putin. The company would not name the dancers or give their rank, although other news outlets described them as “senior” company members.

Ashley Woodfield, a spokesman for The Royal Ballet, said the dancers had talked to director Kevin O’Hare, who had agreed to respect their decision.

In an email, Mr. O’Hare, said: “We are a company of 96 dancers and just two have decided that they do not want to tour to Moscow for political reasons, something The Royal Ballet has known for a couple of months. This has no impact on our ability to present a fantastic program of work for ballet audiences at the Bolshoi, on a par with the thrilling evenings given to us by the Bolshoi when they have visited us here at the Royal Opera House. We respect the right of dancers or other staff to request not to go on tour internationally.”

The Royal Ballet is scheduled to perform at the Bolshoi in Moscow from June 17 to 22, its first appearance in Russia in over a decade. One program features Tetractys—The Art of Fugue, choreographed by Wayne McGregor, whose Rite of Spring for the Bolshoi was cancelled in the wake of the January 2013 acid attack on Sergei Filin.

To see the original story, visit:



Two New Ballet Class CDs From Christopher Hobson Receive ‘Thumbs Up’ Review

Modern Ballet Studio Melodies Original Ballet Compositions; cover image courtesy Facebook

Modern Ballet Studio Melodies Original Ballet Compositions; cover image courtesy Facebook

Two new ballet class CDs from UK pianist Christopher Hobson—Modern Ballet Studio Melodies, Volume 5 and Modern Ballet Studio Melodies Original Compositions—received favorable reviews from assistant editor and ballet instructor Emily Kate Long.

Long said each CD features 32 non-repeating tracks of “crisply recorded” solo piano music. Volume 5 includes favorites like “Hit the Road, Jack” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” along with some more obscure tunes. “The music is familiar but the tunes aren’t intrusive or distracting,” Long says. “One of my favorites is [Hobson’s] Debussy-esque treatment of Irving Berlin’s ‘Always,’ for pliés.”

Original Compositions,” she says, “has all the fun, flair, and flavor of Hobson’s popular tune albums. The music here has a nice balance of peppy numbers and gentle, lyrical pieces; all simply and gracefully played. The tempi are consistent, but within that frame, the phrasing is very sensitive and playful. I know it will become a staple in my classroom of intermediate and advanced students.”

Long continues, “As with the first four Modern Ballet Studio Melodies CDs, these two feature more adagio music than on most ballet class albums. The allegro tracks have a pleasing range of speed and length, and both discs conclude with a cool down and reverence.”

These two collections are available on iTunes and on Christopher Hobson’s website, To see the original story, visit



Who’s the Tallest of Them All? Joffrey Ballet’s Fabrice Calmels

Fabrice Calmels; photo by Daniel Kelleghan

Fabrice Calmels;
photo by Daniel Kelleghan

At six feet six inches, Fabrice Calmels is the tallest professional ballet dancer. The Joffrey Ballet dancer and native of France recently spoke with Chicagoist about whether his height has worked as an advantage or disadvantage when it comes to dancing.

FC: “It was a disadvantage for the longest time. Prior to Joffrey Ballet, I was with the Paris Opera. I did all my studies with them, in boarding school, and after I started growing, they didn’t know what to do with me. They were shocked.

“The Paris Opera, it’s a large institution . . . over 100 dancers. They are perfection people . . . they fit and assemble, all the same height, everybody is the same body type, and I was a giant! When I came to the U.S., it was kind of the same thing. Nobody [in auditions] ever saw a dancer this tall. So for the longest time, it was really a disadvantage because I couldn’t show what I was doing and who I really was as a performer, because all they would see is that height. And it was for them a wall, a giant wall and a barrier they couldn’t pass.

“With height, coordination becomes a challenge. A lot of people said, ‘You’re never going to be able to make it.’ It was a challenge because it was a lot to figure out. You rotate in the air, you do big jumps, you do split jumps, rotation with split jumps, many many turns—and all those different techniques require different knowledge with understanding how your body functions. It requires a lot of coordination and awareness and understanding. I’m so glad that I was able to do the work and be able to conquer that. That was a huge achievement for me.”

To read the full interview, visit



Second Group of Defectors in Two Years Helped by Miami’s Cuban Classical Ballet

Edward Gonzalez and Arianni Martin defected from the Cuban National Ballet in April 2013; photo by Alan Diaz/Associated Press

Edward Gonzalez and Arianni Martin defected from the Cuban National Ballet in April 2013; photo by Alan Diaz/Associated Press

Six deserters from the Cuban National Ballet who fled the dance troupe while visiting Puerto Rico this weekend already have the pledged support of Pedro Pablo Peña, who heads up the Cuban Classical Ballet of Miami, according to Voxxi.

Peña told the Associated Press that he planned on supporting them and was going to offer them an artistic space while they determined what to do next. He says he already spoke to four of those dancers.

It’s common for dancers to defect, whether to escape the Castro dictatorship, or for better economic conditions. (Cuban ballet dancers tend to earn an average of $30 a month.) “Their careers are stifled in the island, when they see they have not possibilities (that most artists have abroad),” Peña told Spanish news agency EFE.

Despite the ballet’s prestige, the practice of defecting has happened for decades. According to the AP, the first Cuban National Ballet (Ballet Nacional Cubano) defection occurred in 1966 when the dance company was in Paris, with the dancers citing political reasons. Peña, a Cuban exiled dancer, also helped seven dancers who defected in March of 2013.

Peña confirmed the most recent group, comprised of two women and four men, is doing well, even though they did express some nervousness after daring to escape to a foreign land. To see the original story, visit



Sarasota Ballet Mourns Death of Dancer After His Bicycle is Struck By a Truck

Pedro Pupa; photo by Barbara Banks

Pedro Pupa; photo by Barbara Banks

A delivery truck driver faces charges after his vehicle struck and killed Sarasota Ballet corps de ballet dancer Pedro Pupa, who was riding a bicycle near the John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida, last Wednesday afternoon.

WFLA Channel 8 said Pupa was transported to Blake Medical Center in Bradenton, where he died from his injuries Wednesday night.

A statement from the ballet said Pupa, a native of Brazil, had been with the company for two years. It spoke of the dancer’s determination and courage dealing with a knee injury, of his radiant smile and zest for life, and also of his generosity to friends, family, and colleagues.

“Only a few hours before the accident, he was at the studio doorway waving and smiling at me, telling me that he was happy because he was doing class again,” Margaret Barbieri, assistant director, said in the statement. “I will remember this image of him always. We will all miss Pedro more than words can describe, but he will be in our hearts and thoughts forever.”

“Pedro was one of the nicest young men I have had the pleasure to know,” managing director Mary Anne Servian said. “Always a smile—always a kind word. Pedro lived life to the fullest.”

To see the news report, visit



New Film About Early Days of AIDS Features Strong Cast of San Francisco Dancers

Scott Marlowe; photo by Tim Hussin

Scott Marlowe; photo by Tim Hussin

Ballet dancer Chris Mason Johnson’s second movie, Test, which follows a young dancer named Frankie living in San Francisco during the early days of the AIDS crisis, begins screening this month in 13 cities and via iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, and other on-demand services today.

SFGate reports that the movie—a sleeper hit on the festival circuit—features dancers from San Francisco Ballet, Robert Moses’ Kin, and other companies in extended dance sequences, and is choreographed by New York dancemaker Sidra Bell. Many of the San Francisco–area dancers have small acting roles, too. Scott Marlowe, a dancer and administrator with the SoMa–based LEVYdance company, stars as shy, fearful Frankie.

Mason Johnson, a member of Ballet Frankfurt in the ’90s, wrote from his experience of being a young gay dancer (he trained at New York’s School of American Ballet), but transposed the story to San Francisco. Frankie deals with the mounting panic and homophobia of the early AIDS years, and struggles with an attraction toward a sexy fellow company member played by Broadway veteran Matthew Risch.

“So many of the AIDS movies out there are deathbed stories,” Mason Johnson said by phone. “I had started to have survivor’s guilt. I felt like my story didn’t matter, like I didn’t have a right to it, but as an artist I wanted to address this other side.”

To see a trailer and for more information on the film, visit To read the full story, visit




Former Taliban Captive Bowe Bergdahl Studied Ballet Before Joining the Army

Bowe Bergdahl; photo courtesy Sherry Horton

Bowe Bergdahl; photo courtesy Sherry Horton

While several of Bowe Bergdahl’s former comrades describe him as a deserter who became disillusioned with the military mission in Afghanistan, others paint a picture of a kind-hearted, complicated man—whose hobbies included ballet.

Bergdahl spent five years in captivity with the Taliban, and is at the center of a controversy after being handed over to the United States in exchange for the release of five prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Sherry Horton, artistic director of Sun Valley Ballet in Idaho, told Fox News how she reacted when Bergdahl told her he’d joined the Army just days before leaving. “I was not surprised,” Horton said, “just because of his beliefs, his upbringing—so many things about him. He was all about protecting the rights of the U.S. and citizens and being a person who took charge.”

Born in Idaho in 1986, Bergdahl and his sister were educated at home by their parents Bob and Jani, who raised their children as strict Calvinists, studying religious thinkers and philosophers at their home on 40 acres in Hailey, Idaho. At the age of 16, he started taking ballet lessons at a local studio, where he was introduced to Buddhism and meditation.

“He was always trying to expand and learn about different cultures and all sorts of different things,” Horton said. He liked exploring other cultures so much he even managed to learn some Russian from one of the ballet instructors at the school.

Despite being one of the “best-mannered” men she knew, Horton admitted Bergdahl had a tendency to become overwhelmed. “There were lots of times here when things would get a little crazy and all he wanted to do is walk into the forest or up into the hills and sit down and meditate for an hour,” Horton said.

To read the full story, visit



Dallas Cowboys Hope to Get a Leg Up on Injuries With Installation of Ballet Barres



Dancers at a ballet barre; photo by Darcy Knoblich

Dancers at a ballet barre; photo by Darcy Knoblich

When it comes to preventing injuries, NFL football teams should and would consider every avenue. So, at the risk of a few snickers, the Dallas Cowboys organization is installing ballet barres outside the team’s locker room to help players stretch out, reports NBC Sports.

According to Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News, the new equipment comes after 12 players were sidelined with thigh or hamstring issues last year.

“We’ve put a big emphasis on addressing, as an organization, some of the injuries that we’ve had,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett says. “Just an emphasis on stretching, giving our players the opportunity, whether it’s with ballet [barres] or V-sits or back systems. Whatever things we use, we try to help them get into routines that can help them be flexible and avoid some of the injuries we’ve had.”

Coach Garrett adds, “It’s always been an emphasis for us. We have to look at ourselves and what we’re doing to help our players stay as healthy as possible.”

It remains to be seen whether the ballet barres work or not. Too many players stretch in a way that may not be effective simply because that’s the way they’ve always stretched. Yet, “addressing what has been a noticeable problem is a good idea,” NBC’s Pro Football Talk says.

To see the original story, visit




Courage of Three-Year-Old Disabled Dancer Celebrated in Oregon Studio Concert

Brielle Crawford; photo courtesy ABC News

Brielle Crawford; photo courtesy ABC News

Three-year-old Brielle Crawford has grown to love dancing, even though doctors initially feared a mistake might lead her to permanently harm herself.

ABC News affiliate KEZI-TV in Eugene, Oregon, said Brielle was born with two rare disorders that threatened her ability to move. Part of her lower face is paralyzed because of the congenital disorder, hemifacial microsomia. In addition, a bone disorder called Klippel-Feil syndrome resulted in two spinal bones in her neck being fused. The disorders have led to some paralysis on her right side, a missing rib, and her ear not being fully developed, according to her mother, Jaylene Crawford.

Doctors feared what might happen if Brielle fell—with one warning that a severe fall could mean paralysis. Doctors continue to monitor Brielle, and the toddler will likely need surgery for scoliosis that will result in limited spine movement.

However, once Brielle was given clearance to dance, she began taking ballet and tap classes at All That! Dance Company in Oregon. Dance teachers, inspired by the pint-size dancer’s courage, held a benefit concert last Friday at the Wildish Theater in Springfield, Oregon. The concert, titled Overcome, raised funds to help with Brielle’s medical expenses, including future surgeries.

“Brielle is so spunky and so much fun. She has so much personality, and that is why we really wanted this concert to be about overcoming. It’s about the triumph of her little spirit,” said All That! Dance Company studio owner Sarah Beth Byrum.

To see the full story, visit



Police Officer Joins Ballet Dancer Brother in Youth Ballet Venture

Norwalk Metropolitan Youth Ballet; photo courtesy Facebook

Norwalk Metropolitan Youth Ballet; photo courtesy Facebook

Adam Holms, a professional ballet dancer, and his brother, officer Christopher Holms of the Norwalk [CT] Police Department, have launched the Norwalk Metropolitan Youth Ballet—because, according to Adam, “Any place where there’s kids and dance, there is joy.”

It’s Relevant said the Holms brothers share a common belief that the arts not only can change the lives of children and adults who participate, but also has the potential to shape a community’s future.

“Ballet is all about discipline. It is all about being part of a history, a lineage,” said Adam, who entered the Joffrey Ballet School in New York City at the age of 16 and went on to dance at Northwest Florida Ballet.

His brother, Christopher, serves as chief advisor for the police department’s Police Explorers’ program, as well as head of the DARE program in the city’s schools. “There is so much untapped potential out there. I see it all the time in schools. When I mention my brother does ballet, a lot of kids say, ‘your brother . . . ?’ and I say, ‘OK, so what does a ballet dancer look like?’ and it’s always the same exact image. We are breaking those barriers,” Christopher said.

“What better way to celebrate childhood and youth then through the art of dancing, while also creating a sense of discipline and just a love of self. I want to prepare kids for a life in the arts but also allow them to have the arts in their lives,” Adam said.

Classes begin September 8. For more information, visit To see the original story, visit



International Star, Carlos Acosta, to Retire From Ballet After 2015–16 Season

Carlos Acosta; photo by Johan Persson

Carlos Acosta; photo by Johan Persson

Carlos Acosta has announced that he will retire from classical ballet in two years’ time after a “swan song” production of Carmen, announced the Telegraph.

The international star will choreograph and star in the Royal Ballet production, set for September 2015. He plans to retire from classical ballet at the end of the 2015–16 season—though he will continue to perform in contemporary works.

Acosta, 40, is widely considered among the most charismatic and dramatic of performers, receiving critical acclaim and selling out theaters wherever he performs. Speaking in an interview with Telegraph arts editor in chief Sarah Crompton, Acosta said he had been “grieving” for the end of his career for some time, and joked that he would have to employ a choreographer to devise a dance for him sitting down.

Considering a move into contemporary dance, Acosta hinted he would consider starting his own, small, dance company, but would eschew taking up full-time directorship immediately because it would be “exhausting.”

Acosta also shared his thoughts on a new generation of ballet dancers, saying that an increasing number took up the discipline for money and fame rather than passion. To see the full story, visit




Britain’s Big Ballet Docu-Series Premieres on Ovation This Wednesday

Big Ballet; courtesy Ovation

Big Ballet; courtesy Ovation

Dancers need long limbs and willowy figures to make it in ballet, but not if they’re in Big Ballet, a three-episode reality series that premiers May 28 at 10pm on Ovation.

The Wall Street Journal said that Big Ballet follows 18 plus-size British dancers as they prepare to perform the world’s most famous classical ballet, Swan Lake. The documentary-style show captures these brave souls in auditions, rehearsals, and a performance that defies preconceptions of ballet and body shape.

It took five months to turn these amateurs into graceful swans. “We looked like dropouts of Fame at the beginning,” said dancer Christine Longster, 52. “I was in my Zumba clothes.”

Like many reality shows, Big Ballet has a mentor: the former Royal Ballet principal Wayne Sleep, who had his own point to make about size. Standing just five-foot-two, he was the shortest man to join the London ballet company, where he danced for more than a decade.

He sees the series as delivering a message to today’s youth and teachers. “Ballet is not fair,” he said. “Why is it that you have to be a certain size?”

The British production company Rare Day created the series, but Ovation, a cable network devoted to arts programming, said it is considering a longer American version after the three-episode series airs. To read the full story, visit




Royal Winnipeg Anniversary Coin Depicts Sleeping Beauty Scene—in Color

Royal Winnipeg Ballet coin; photo courtesy Coin Update

Royal Winnipeg Ballet coin; photo courtesy Coin Update

The Royal Canadian Mint is commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet with a silver collector coin that depicts a view from Sleeping Beauty and comes in a music box, reports Coin Update.

The one-ounce silver coin depicts an engraved rendition of a photograph by one of Canada’s foremost dance photographers, David Cooper—an overhead view of six dancers from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s The Sleeping Beauty. With their arms outstretched and intertwined, the dancers form a snowflake-like pattern as they lean forward, their right legs outstretched in front of them so that their pointe shoes meet at the center.

As part of the reverse design, the coin incorporates a new color technique that faithfully re-creates the stunning costumes worn by the dancers and further showcases the embellishments that adorn their traditional platter tutus.

The obverse of the coin includes a portrait of HM Queen Elizabeth II created by Susanna Blunt and used on Canadian circulation and commemorative coinage since 2003. For more information, visit



New York City Tough-Love Ballet Academy Featured in New Docu-Series

Big Apple Ballet; photo courtesy Facebook

Big Apple Ballet; photo courtesy Facebook

Big Apple Ballet, a reality docu-series under development, centers on former top dancer François Perron and the tough-love style of teaching he employs at his school, the French Academie of Ballet, in New York City.

A release from PR Web says that Perron has a likeability factor—a joie de vivre charm—whether he’s all dressed up in Hugo Boss and on his best behavior for one of FAB’s Manhattan performances, or displaying his French ferocity in the classroom where he demands the best from his students—many with dreams of professional ballet careers.

Perron is a graduate of the Paris Opera Ballet School and danced for New York City Ballet, the Joffrey Ballet, and American Ballet Theatre, among others. He teaches at American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School and at The Juilliard School, and was a ballet coach for the Broadway show, Billy Elliot: The Musical. He founded FAB in 2011.

The show is being developed by Susan Beck Productions and is currently seeking a distributor. For more information, visit To see the original press release, visit



Dads’ Recital Dance Designed as Fundraiser for Cancer Center

Jack Pickett and fellow Dance Dads; photo by Scott Rosts/Niagara This Week staff

Jack Pickett and fellow Dance Dads; photo by Scott Rosts/Niagara This Week staff

Ballet Etc. in St. Catharines, Ontario, was struck hard by cancer in 2013. Dancers had family members die or diagnosed. Director Jane Elliott herself lost her father to cancer. So friend and dance mom Elizabeth Taliano suggested that the Dance Dads number at the spring showcase take on special meaning by raising funds—and awareness—for the Walker Family Cancer Centre.

“I thought it was a fantastic idea,” Elliott told Niagara This Week. She invited the fathers of dancers to apply for 25 spots on a Dance Dads performance team. Each dad would have to commit to more than 10 hours of rehearsals and raise a minimum of $500 for the cancer center to earn their tutu for the year-end performance.

“I thought it would be tough to get 25 dads, but we actually had even more. They’ve been committed, not just here dancing but in getting the word out,” said Elliott, noting the team consists of community leaders and professionals, including physicians, a surgeon, business owners, ministers, teachers, and others.

An original fundraising goal of $12,500 was quickly surpassed. As of last week, the effort had raised more than $48,000.

There was no hesitation, she said, when the dads learned they would be wearing tutus in front of what is expected to be a sold-out crowd during the recital, May 23 and 24. “They laughed out loud and loved it,” she recalls. “That’s what’s made this so special. They haven’t hesitated. They’ve embraced it, and the community has as well.”

For more information, visit To see the original story, visit



Program Brings Together Mentor Alexei Ratmansky and Young SFB Protégé

Myles Thatcher (left) with Alexei Ratmansky; photo: ©Rolex/Reto Albertalli

Myles Thatcher (left) with Alexei Ratmansky; photo: ©Rolex/Reto Albertalli

San Francisco Ballet corps de ballet member and budding choreographer Myles Thatcher will be personally mentored for a year by American Ballet Theatre artist in residence Alexei Ratmansky through the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative.

The biennial philanthropic program was created by Rolex to ensure that the world’s artistic heritage is passed on from generation to generation, across continents and cultures. Thatcher is one of seven young artists personally selected by their mentors who will receive a grant of 25,000 Swiss francs and are eligible for an additional 25,000 Swiss francs for the creation of new work after the mentoring year.

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Thatcher trained at The Harid Conservatory, Ellison Ballet, and San Francisco Ballet School prior to being named an apprentice in 2009 and joining the company in 2010.

Helgi Tomasson, SF Ballet artistic director and principal choreographer, said the ballet is “incredibly proud” that Thatcher was selected for this honor. “I’ve personally enjoyed watching Myles grow as a dancer, and most recently, as a budding choreographer. I look forward to seeing his first work for the company, which will premiere in the 2015 season,” Tomasson said.

For more information, visit



California Studio Fulfills a Need by Teaching Ballet Classes in Spanish

Salinas School of Dance; photo courtesy The Californian

Salinas School of Dance;
photo courtesy The Californian

Andrea Bernal speaks enthusiastically about her new ballet class for girls from 2 and a half to 4 years old at the Salinas [CA] School of Dance that she teaches in Spanish.

“We have a lot of girls who speak only Spanish and it’s hard for them to understand when the teacher is explaining in English,” Bernal told the Californian. “I’m very proud and very happy that [the studio owner] trusted me to be the instructor in that class.”

Although Salinas School of Dance offers tap, jazz, Irish dance, and ballet classes, the new Spanish class is for ballet beginners only. (Steps are taught using the French terminology.)

“Last summer a mother came with her daughter, hoping to be accepted because she was rejected from another place because they didn’t speak Spanish,” Lisa Eisemann, owner and director of Salinas School of Dance, said. “I think it was the launching point to me. I just can’t imagine saying to a child ‘You can’t come here because you don’t speak English.’ I just want to make them most comfortable so they love their experiences and they carry that with them.”

To see the full story, visit



Clothing Company Makes Grand Faux Pas

Free People ad; photo courtesy Adweek

Free People ad; photo courtesy Adweek

The clothing manufacturer Free People released an ad that was meant to promote its dancewear, but instead has sent the dance world into a tizzy of dismay.

Comments on the company’s website include criticism of the model’s obvious lack of technique, especially her sickled feet and dangerous lack of strength while ostensibly on pointe. Adweek ran a story on the response to the ad, noting that Under Armour’s campaign, featuring American Ballet Theatre’s Misty Copeland, might serve as a model for ballet-oriented ads in the future.

One commenter wrote, “Free People, please fire your casting director ASAP. This was painful to watch and offensive to anyone who has taken more than one dance class in their life.”

Another commented: “Has she been TRAINED????? Her feet are TERRIBLE, her lines are TERRIBLE . . . I could go on. This is OFFENSIVE to dancers out there. You went and decided to cast some local “ballet dancer” because she had your look. Shame on you, there are plenty of professionals out there that would have looked stunning in this.”

To see the video, visit To see the full story, visit




Two Violinists’ Musical Journey Leads From the Subway to the Boston Ballet Stage

Boston Ballet violinists for “Cacti,” Josh Knowles (left) and Rhett Price; photo courtesy Lacrosse Playground

Boston Ballet violinists for “Cacti,” Josh Knowles (left) and Rhett Price; photo courtesy Lacrosse Playground

When Josh Knowles and Rhett Price started busking on the streets of Boston, they would take home a mere $12 a day—barely enough to buy dinner. This week, the two violinists were dressed in tuxedos while performing for the Boston Ballet.

“Playing in the subway, that’s how we got here,” Knowles told the Boston Herald. “We’re not playing in the subway (anymore) though, we’re playing at the Opera House.”

“Which is going to be sick; I’m stoked,” Price added.

The two musicians are part of a four-person string quartet performing onstage with the Boston Ballet in the contemporary ballet “Cacti,” the finale of a three-ballet program titled Pricked that ends its run Sunday. They were approached by the ballet company a year ago, shortly after they recorded a rendition of Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” at South Station. It went viral on YouTube and is up to 1.3 million hits.

The two young men now support themselves on their music alone. Their next biggest challenge might just be figuring out all the buttons on those tuxes. “Now I’m confused,” Price said, as the Herald followed him to his fitting. “I told you dude, it’s hard,” Knowles added.

To see the original story and view a video report, visit




Preliminary and Final Rounds of World Ballet Competition To Be Streamed Live

WBC competitor Adiarys Almeida; photo by Ovidiu Matiu

WBC competitor Adiarys Almeida; photo by Ovidiu Matiu

All competition rounds of June’s World Ballet Competition, an Orlando, Florida, event that has featured hundreds of top-notch international competitors ages 10 to 22 during the past six years, will be streamed live on the internet.

The competition schedule includes:
• June 9: preprofessional round 1/disqualifying (classical 1 and contemporary 1)
• June 10: preparatory round 1/disqualifying (classical 1 and contemporary 1)
• June 11: preprofessional round 2/disqualifying (classical 2 and contemporary 2); professional round 1/disqualifying (classical 1 and contemporary 1)
• June 12: introductory round 1/final round (classical 1 and classical 2); preparatory round 2/final round (classical 2); professional round 2/disqualifying (classical 2 and contemporary 2)
• June 13: preprofessional and professional round 3 (classical 3); preprofessional and professional round 3/final round (classical 4); group category (ensembles and pas de deux).

All rounds run 5:30 to 10pm, except for June 9, which runs 5:30 to 10:30pm. The award ceremony will be held June 14 from 5 to 6pm. For full information on the livestream, visit



Evicted-Due-To-Demolition: New York Theatre Ballet Finds a New Home

New York Theatre Ballet; photo courtesy Facebook

New York Theatre Ballet;
photo courtesy Facebook

New York Theatre Ballet, a small but inventive and often feisty company that was told last September it would soon have to leave its headquarters for the last 34 years because the building was going to be razed, said on Friday it had found a new home.

The New York Times ArtsBeat blog reported that the company will move its offices and its training arm, the Ballet School NY, to St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery, on East 10th Street, starting in September. The company’s current office and studio space is at the parish house of the Madison Avenue Baptist Church, on East 31st Street. Although NYTB was originally told that it had to leave by September 30 last year, the company was given a reprieve while it sought a new space.

The move itself does not greatly affect the troupe’s performing plans, but it is taking the opportunity to reconfigure its season. The company, which was founded in 1978 by Diana Byer, who is still its artistic director, has performed for several years at Florence Gould Hall. It will continue to offer its children’s performances at Gould Hall, and will maintain an association with the New York Pops, an orchestra that performs at Carnegie Hall.

But next season the company will offer its Dance on a Shoestring series in its new studio space at St. Mark’s, and will present performances of repertory works at the 92nd Street Y in January and at New York Live Arts, the home of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, in February. The company will also undertake two national tours next season.

To see the original story, visit



Search is Underway to Fill Teen Ballerina Role in Comedy Movie, Prima

Vera Farmiga; photo courtesy IMDb

Vera Farmiga;
photo courtesy IMDb

Peter Sarsgaard and Vera Farmiga are due to star in the ballet comedy Prima, which is scheduled to begin pre-production this summer.

The Internet Movie Database reports that Farmiga, best known as George Clooney’s co-star in Up in the Air, has been cast as a mother who will stop at nothing to realize her daughter’s dream of dancing Sleeping Beauty, while The Killing star Sarsgaard will play a “devil in dance shoes” instructor. A search is underway for the role of the 13-year-old newcomer.

Choreography will come from acclaimed Black Swan choreographer Benjamin Millepied, recently appointed director of dance at Paris Opera Ballet, and Kurt Froman, resident choreographer for Billy Elliot: The Musical on Broadway.

Producers are Daniel Dubiecki (Juno, Up in the Air) and Lara Alameddine of Los Angeles–based The Allegiance Theater. Musical-theater director Evan Greenberg will direct. To see the original story, visit



Danish Photographer’s Dance Images Show Possibilities of Digital Manipulation

Ingrid Bugge photograph of Romeo and Juliet; photo by Ingrid Bugge

Ingrid Bugge photograph of Romeo and Juliet;
photo by Ingrid Bugge

Danish photographer Ingrid Bugge spent nearly two years in residency with Royal Danish Ballet. Her main project was to capture her impressions of their work through a series of single artworks, many of them photographic collages or manipulated images.

Her work, collected within the print book The Essence of Ballet, offers a glimpse into the possibilities of the digital future, reported the Guardian. But they’ve been given an alternative life in a complementary interactive iBook (

In one image-sequencing format featured in the iBook, three conventionally static dance images are laid out on a page (a trio, a single man with a stretched torso and angled arms, and Juliet on her balcony). Each image can be clicked to reveal the multiple images that Bugge shot as the dancers were actually moving (like an update of the old cartoon flip book).

A video on Vimeo shows how Bugge brings a fascinating digitalized craft to her work ( Analyzing the image she created from John Neumeier’s ballet Lady of the Camellias, Bugge describes how she put extra layers of fabric around the dancer to create an effect of the dying Marguerite still glowing with love, yet poised to transcend her earthly life.

To see Bugge’s photos, visit To read the full story, visit



Feetwork of Barre Exercises Turned Into Artwork by SFB’s Damian Smith

SFB dancer Damian Smith; photo by Paul Chinn/The Chronicle

SFB dancer Damian Smith;
photo by Paul Chinn/The Chronicle

San Francisco Ballet principal dancer Damian Smith steps carefully into paint and then onto the surface of a canvas as he takes fifth position at the barre. A brush of his foot reveals a soft stroke on the white surface. With precision borne of years of training, each subsequent stroke draws lines of both delicacy and power to form organic, symmetrical patterns.

The San Francisco Chronicle says that both the discipline and elegance of the daily exercises that every ballet dancer repeats thousands of times in a career can be found in the large-scale action drawings that Smith—who will say farewell to the War Memorial Opera House stage on Sunday after an 18-year career—creates with his feet.

The project, which will yield six action drawings in different media—from liquid pencil on cotton paper to acrylic on canvas—is the brainchild of Muriel Maffre, herself a former SFB principal and now executive director of the Museum of Performance + Design. The drawings will be exhibited in June at the Catharine Clark Gallery and auctioned to benefit MP+D on July 19.

Maffre “thought of those chicken scratches as something that is very familiar to everyone who dances,” says Smith, 40, whose graphic arts experience is limited to this project. “Every stage, every studio, every space at a barre has these marks on the floor. We thought that seeing as it’s my last season, it would be a great way to document the dancing that is still in the moment and in movement.”

For more information on the exhibit, visit To read the full story, visit



2 Tips for Ballet Teachers | Prepping for Partnering

2 tips Ballet
By David Arce

Tip 1
In partnering, the male student’s primary responsibility is to make sure his partner looks her best at all times. Often the boys/men are too concerned about how they look as they pose behind the girl, and her position becomes compromised. They must make sure the girl is on her leg and in a comfortable position before posing behind her.

A simple exercise is to have the girl perform a piqué arabesque with a boy partnering her. The boy must travel with the girl as she steps up to her arabesque and have his hands on her waist and his eyes on her supporting leg, while his knees are still bent. Only after she has fully arrived in a comfortable and square arabesque can he complete the pose behind her: tendu, lunge, etc.


Tip 2
The girl must treat any supported position as if she were doing it on her own; under no circumstances should she release her core or turnout muscles or put tension where it is not needed, especially when turning. She must trust that her partner will do his job and keep her in a square position over her leg.

One way I make sure students are prepared to do this is by having the girl do a pirouette by herself and have her partner support the ending passé balance only. This builds trust in both dancers and reminds them of their responsibility in a partnering relationship.






A Gentle Reminder

There are two singing ensembles in my area. One boasts 100 chosen-by-audition voices trilling out six-part harmonies. In performances the singers wear black-tie garb and are accompanied by a professional orchestra—with a harp.

Then there’s my community chorus. All you have to do to join this 42-member group is grab a folding chair off the rack and, occasionally, bring a snack to share. You’re sure to be welcomed by the director’s dachshund, which weaves around our feet during rehearsals.

In a way, we’re like the Pawsox compared to the mighty Red Sox. Or—in an analogy every dance teacher can understand—the rec kids to the comp kids. This, of course, does not mean we love singing any less. It only means that high notes (like home runs) are harder for us to hit.

Last fall we prepared mightily for our Christmas concert, going over and over sections and marking up our music with pencil. We’re a jolly, friendly bunch, sharing throat lozenges and laughs, but at dress rehearsal for the public concert, we perched stiff and breathless in tiers on the Methodist church altar. Our director raised his baton. “Savor every note,” was all he said. “Enjoy.”

No last-minute “Don’t forget to do this-and-that.” No fussing and fretting over performance points or technical details. Only a gentle reminder that it was time to put away the struggle for perfection and enjoy the show.

It was good advice. Our “giddy-yap”s were sprightly, our “fa-la-la”s on key. And when we came to the sing-a-long, the audience actually sang. Our director—a very wise man—flashed us a secret thumbs-up.

This month, I’ll be “directing” my dancers in our first competitions of the season. How many teachers will I see backstage drilling their troops, pounding out counts in endless linoleum hallways, with furrowed brows and wagging chins? I’ve been there myself, but this year I know what my final direction will be: “Savor every step. Enjoy.” —Karen White, Associate Editor


All-Inclusive Dance

Not long ago, while I was leaving the garage to take Saturday morning ballet class at a downtown dance studio, an older couple rode the elevator with me. Both were in their mid-60s, graying, and they carried an extra 50 pounds between them. She wore the air of a woman who’d seen many children and grandchildren through colds, homework, and heartbreak. He sported a grizzled beard, a disheveled ponytail, and crooked glasses that slid down his nose. I noticed them because they seemed out of place in an area whose weekday bustle was largely muted on an early Saturday morning. The only significant pedestrian traffic at that hour was the trickle of addicts shuffling into and out of a methadone clinic.

Later, as I left my class in the main studio, I saw the two of them sitting on a bench in the hall in old workout clothes, dripping with sweat, street clothes in canvas shopping bags at their feet. I poked my head into the smaller studio and discovered they’d come from an Absolute Beginner Ballet Workshop class. I smiled and thought, “Whoa. You’ve really got to give it to them for having the courage and the chutzpah to do something like starting ballet at this age.”

The next week, back for another class, I spotted them again. Leaving their class, both of them looked happy and satisfied, if exhausted.

I was flooded with a sense of amazement, that dancing can and does afford so much happiness to so many people, of all ages, and shapes, and inclinations. And I was grateful to the teacher and the school for welcoming all of us—the no longer shiny new, the absolute beginners, the intimidated, the newly intrepid—to dance our hearts out. —Lisa Okuhn, Associate Editor



Art Forms of Ballet and Equestrian Dressage Share Grace, Athleticism

U.S. elite jumping rider Charlie Jacobs and ballerina Liudmila Khitrova; photo courtesy CNN

U.S. elite jumping rider Charlie Jacobs and ballerina Liudmila Khitrova; photo courtesy CNN

While most people can appreciate the grace and athleticism of ballet, dressage—the precision art of horse riding and training—remains a puzzling spectacle to all but a few.

CNN reports that the International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI) aims to show that these two art forms are not so different. For the launch of the flagship FEI World Cup Finals in Lyon, France, the organizing body assembled the finest talent from the worlds of elite riding and ballet to show off their skills side by side.

“They’re very similar in terms of athletic ability; they’re very delicate but they’re very powerful,” said U.S. jumping rider Charlie Jacobs, who joined dressage champion Charlotte Dujardin and dancers from the Bolshoi Ballet Theatre of Belarus for the photo shoot.

The FEI’s director of dressage, Trond Asmyr, says the organizers hoped to create a comparison to ballet, which would open up the esoteric world to outsiders. He believes the parallels go beyond the athletes’ physical abilities. “You need a feeling for what you’re doing: it’s not only a question of jumping as far as you can or as long as you can or as high as you can—it’s this combination of putting all these elements together to produce the optimal performance.”

To see the original story, visit




What’s up in the dance community
An Ashton Feast in Florida

Florida’s Sarasota Ballet has been slowly but steadily building a name and reputation for itself by presenting works by Sir Frederick Ashton.

Executive director Iain Webb and his wife, Margaret Barbieri, assistant director, came to know Ashton as a choreographer and a friend during their years as dancers with The Royal Ballet. Since Webb took over Sarasota in 2007, the company has presented more Ashton ballets than any other American ballet company. Ten of those—well-known classics such as Birthday Offering and Les Patineurs, as well as rare gems such as Sinfonietta—will be featured in the company’s Sir Frederick Ashton Festival, running April 30 to May 3.

The event, staged to honor Ashton’s life and work, will also feature films and discussion/lectures led by Ashton experts such as Antoinette Sibley, Anthony Dowell, David Vaughan, Wendy Ellis Somes, and Alastair Macaulay. “Having worked so closely with Ashton during my time at The Royal Ballet, I feel it’s my duty to help preserve his great works,” said Webb in a release, calling Ashton “one of the best choreographers to ever live.”


From the Page to the Stage

Carousel School of Dance students produced a DSL writer’s show concept last winter. Photo courtesy the Clinton Herald

Dance Studio Life writer Holly Derville-Teer had a story assignment: create a holiday show based on a list of unusual creative parameters, such as “feature an endangered species” and “make use of spoken word.” Her creation, The Christmas Butterfly, appeared in last July’s DSL. She was proud, but a little glum. “I was so excited because I spent so much time working on it, picturing it, but in the end, I was never going to see it,” she said.

Meanwhile, in Clinton, Iowa, Carousel School of Dance owner Linda Luckstead had put on a holiday show for 53 years—and she was on the hunt for a new idea. The Christmas Butterfly was it.

“It was a simple idea, but I loved it,” she said. “I embellished a few things, changed a few of the songs. The kids loved it, and the response from the audience was tremendous. Holly did a magnificent job, and I thank her over and over.”

As luck would have it, Derville-Teer saw a Clinton Herald story about Luckstead’s show, got in touch with the studio, and last January sat down to watch a DVD of her show—starring 100 students of Carousel School of Dance.


Success in New Mexico: National Dance Institute

National Dance Institute of New Mexico’s 20-year arts/enrichment program was recognized in a Wallace Foundation report. Photo courtesy NDI New Mexico

What makes an afterschool arts program a success? The Wallace Foundation, dedicated to sharing ideas and practices concerning enrichment opportunities for children, set out to ask kids that question. Their answers, outlined in “Something to Say: Success Principles for Afterschool Arts Programs from Urban Youth and Other Experts,” identified 10 “success” principles, from a culture of high expectations, to instructors who are practicing artists, to opportunities for participants to shape programming and assume leadership roles.

Fulfilling those and more is National Dance Institute of New Mexico. Co-founded by Catherine Oppenheimer and Jacques d’Amboise in 1994, the program started with 100 children and today reaches 7,500 youth annually in 34 New Mexico communities—73 percent of whom qualify for free or reduced-cost school lunches. (NDI New Mexico was one of eight programs recognized by the Wallace Foundation report.)

Now under the direction of former San Francisco Ballet principal Evelyn Cisneros, NDI New Mexico’s 61 instructors use dance, music, acting, and physical fitness programming to encourage children to follow the organization’s “core four”: work hard, do your best, never give up, and be healthy.


ADF Honors Educator Irene Dowd

The Juilliard School and Hollins University faculty member Irene Dowd will receive the Balasaraswati/Joy Ann Dewey Beinecke Endowed Chair for Distinguished Teaching from American Dance Festival in a ceremony on June 15 at Duke University.

The award honors educators who have made extraordinary contributions to the field of dance. Dowd, who performed under the direction of Anna Sokolow and José Limón, has taught at Columbia University’s Teachers College, Wesleyan University, and many other schools. Author of the book Taking Root to Fly: Articles on Functional Anatomy, she has maintained a practice in kinesthetic anatomy and neuromuscular re-education for 45 years in New York City.

“Through her research, she has opened a window of possibility for us in the training of dancers and the study of dance science,” ADF dean Gerri Houlihan said in a release.


In Support of Clean Water

Clean water and community serve as inspirations for National Water Dance. Photo by Daniel Lewis

Rudolf Laban called a community of people dancing together for a common purpose a “movement choir.” On April 12, dancers from Alaska to Arkansas to Maine will illustrate his idea through a simultaneous performance in support of our nation’s rivers, lakes, and oceans.

Since National Water Dance was initiated in 2011 by Miami’s New World School of the Arts to draw attention to Florida’s fragile waterways, it has ridden a wave of momentum—this year’s event will involve dancers from more than 70 higher-education institutions, studios, public schools, and companies.

It is hoped that the performances will inspire participants and viewers to “take responsibility for conserving and protecting the water they use and enjoy,” a release said. All are welcome to “sing” along. Visit







Ballet Scene | Viva Villella!

Left photo: Edward Villella’s career has taken him from the principal ranks of New York City Ballet (left photo in 1963) to the helm at Miami City Ballet to the chair of the USA IBC jury. Right photo: Villella will organize a USA IBC panel discussion on New York City Ballet and its founder/director, George Balanchine (left), here rehearsing with Villella and principal dancer Patricia McBride circa 1960. Both photos by Photofest

Left photo: Edward Villella’s career has taken him from the principal ranks of New York City Ballet (left photo in 1963) to the helm at Miami City Ballet to the chair of the USA IBC jury. Right photo: Villella will organize a USA IBC panel discussion on New York City Ballet and its founder/director, George Balanchine (left), here rehearsing with Villella and principal dancer Patricia McBride circa 1960.
Both photos by Photofest

At the USA IBC, it’s curtain up on Act 3 of Edward Villella’s career
By Joseph Carman

F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote that there are no second acts in American lives. But Edward Villella has proved the author wrong once, and is embarking wholeheartedly on his third act. After his career as one of the dance world’s greatest leading men at New York City Ballet, Villella built Miami City Ballet from nothing and took it to international acclaim over a 27-year period (1985–2012). Since his controversial departure from MCB, Villella has accepted the position of chair of the jury for the 2014 USA International Ballet Competition. At 77, Villella still retains serious ambitions and goals.

Villella served as honorary chairman for the 2002 USA IBC, but his new role as jury chair for the Jackson, Mississippi–based competition brings different responsibilities. “I would like to be helpful in identifying this as a competition that has a broader outreach, so that everyone is celebrated, not just the medalists,” he says.

“He’s a good fit because he understands the IBC,” says Sue Lobrano, USA IBC’s executive director since 1986. “He’s interested in more than the competing. We have talked at length about his involvement with teaching competitor classes.” Villella will also organize panel discussions, including one he will facilitate about George Balanchine and NYCB.

I would like to be helpful in identifying this as a competition that has a broader outreach, so that everyone is celebrated, not just the medalists. —Edward Villella

Additionally, Villella wants the judging to reflect what today’s ballet companies are looking for: not trickster whiz kids, but artists who are ready to dance professionally. “It seems to me the major priorities [in other competitions] have been pyrotechnics; all that is terrific and fine, but my interests are to serve and open the field to all contestants,” he says. “From my point of view as an artistic director, it’s not just about pyrotechnics. In a serious repertoire you need to cover the romantic and dramatic areas that are required.”

The 10 other judges for the 2014 USA IBC, which runs from June 14 to 29, include Nina Ananiashvili, former ballerina with Bolshoi Ballet and ABT and artistic director of State Ballet of Georgia; John Meehan, former ABT principal and former director of ABT Studio Company and The Hong Kong Ballet; Feng Ying, artistic director of National Ballet of China; Gigi Hyatt, deputy director of the School of The Hamburg Ballet; Hideo Fukagawa, who danced as a first soloist with Munich State Opera Theater; Alexey Fadeechev, former artistic director of Bolshoi Ballet; Ashley Wheater, artistic director of Joffrey Ballet; Hae Shik Kim, former prima ballerina and former artistic director of Korean National Ballet; Trinidad Vives, former principal dancer with English National Ballet and current artistic director of The Brookline Ballet School near Boston, Massachusetts; and Julio Bocca, a former principal dancer with ABT who now directs Ballet Nacional Sodre in Montevideo, Uruguay.

Ballet Scene Viva2

Photo by Gio Alma

What makes the USA IBC unique, Lobrano says, is the dynamic series of activities available during the two-week period. “Robert Joffrey [the first chair of the jury, who served until his death in 1988] told me one time in casual conversation, ‘Everything we do here in Jackson, we must think and do it for the dancer,’ ” says Lobrano. “That set a good tone. You have to please your audience, but the reason we are doing this is for the dancer. We have created a festival of dance. The competition is the center, surrounded by other activities, like the international dance school, the dance films we show, and the panel discussions.”

This year Trey McIntyre Project and Complexions Contemporary Ballet will appear as guest performing companies. The USA IBC Dance School, held for two weeks concurrently with the competition, trains students ages 12 to 20, accepted by application, in intermediate and advanced levels of dance technique, including ballet, jazz, contemporary, and modern. The faculty is an eclectic group of internationally renowned teachers.

In 1982, the United States Congress passed a joint resolution designating Jackson as the official home of the International Ballet Competition. Before Villella took the reins, former Ballet West and Boston Ballet artistic director Bruce Marks followed Joffrey as jury chair for six competitions, from 1990 through 2010. “Bruce served this organization very well,” Lobrano says. “He was a wonderful spokesperson for the IBC.”

This year, a new twist has been added to Round II of the competition, which previously featured contemporary choreography brought by the competitors. In 2014, they will learn choreography by contemporary choreographers Trey McIntyre and Matthew Neenan in advance of the competition, via DVD. Those who are chosen to move on to the second round will be coached by the choreographers at the competition.

Although Villella didn’t implement the new addition and doesn’t want to make sudden drastic changes to the traditions of the competition, he is in favor of revamping the contemporary round. “In this competition, the intent will be not to leave the contemporary areas to the contestants themselves, but to have a more structured idea, to have specific choreographers and their representatives provide a professional point of view,” he says. (In Round III, finalists must perform a contemporary solo or duet of their choice choreographed after 2010, as well as mandatory classical pieces.)

Lobrano says the new rules for the contemporary round resulted from suggestions made by past competitors. “We added it this time because of some of the feedback we were getting,” she says. “We pay attention to what they have to say.”

In that spirit, Villella wants to promote communication among all parties at the competition. “I would love to see artistic directors, choreographers, and ballet masters be able to communicate on a regular basis with the contestants,” he says. “They have wonderful insights into what the companies are about—for example, if they are more contemporary based versus classically based. People can walk away from a competition and have a better sense of the entire field.” He wants to establish an easy way for artistic directors to present information about their companies, including the number of workweeks, whether they are union or non-union, and what styles the company is pursuing.

Ballet Scene Viva3

Photo by Todd Lechtick

In fact, Villella thinks competitions like the USA IBC are especially valuable to small ballet companies, like MCB in its earliest days. “Their needs are probably the greatest,” he says. “They don’t have long histories or big budgets like the major organizations. They become very competitive among themselves in seeking ability and talent.”

Lobrano points out that, over the years, Villella has given MCB contracts to Jackson competitors, some of whom who hadn’t won medals (such as Toshiro M. Abbley and Carolyn Rose Ramsay), and others who had, such as Haiyan Wu, a gold medalist in the senior division in 2002.

When scouting talent at competitions, Villella says he looked for quality of movement that would serve the choreography. “I knew I couldn’t attract the highest level of dancers [for MCB],” says Villella. “Most of my colleagues were seeking technique. I didn’t necessarily look at technique; I looked for internal dance qualities within the individual. I can teach technique, but I can’t teach talent. I specifically designed my classes around the repertoire I was teaching.”

As for how the judging will be conducted this year, Villella welcomes the diversity and sophistication of the judges’ points of view. He recalls Balanchine’s answer when people asked him what he thought of ballet competitions, when they first began in the Cold War atmosphere of the 1960s. “His immediate response was, ‘Who’s in charge?’ ” Villella says. “Certainly, in the earliest days, that was a complication. Are the people judging from a strictly 19th-century background while trying to digest the 20th century, or 21st? That was a pronounced concern when it was geopolitical.”

Dancers who competed in those days tell tales that echo the questionable and often corrupt judging evident at Olympic figure skating competitions (exemplified by the 2002 Olympic pairs skating scandal) before systemic changes were implemented.

Villella believes Balanchine works are not sufficiently represented in competitions, for specific reasons. “People who haven’t been exposed to or grown up with Balanchine have a certain reluctance in relation to that body of work,” he says. “It’s a sense of understanding neoclassicism from the master—Balanchine comes directly from Petipa and used that [heritage] as a basis.”

The George Balanchine Trust would have to grant permission to use the ballets, but Villella thinks introducing a separate round, similar to the contemporary round, in which dancers are coached in the Balanchine style, could be a step in the right direction. “It is a huge part of repertoire today,” he says. “I would like to be able to expose the dancers to some of those aspects. But I don’t know if we’re quite ready to do that yet. Dancers are still being prepared more in the 19th-century fashion than in a neoclassical fashion.”

Debates persist about how healthy ballet competitions are for dancers, but Villella weighs in on the positives, especially at the USA IBC. “I think the potential and the actualities are inherent,” he says. “It’s kind of a convention, international in its scope. I think it’s wonderful for dancers to be exposed to all the approaches. Learning from dancers from these other countries can have a collective effect. The dancers also learn from the coaches, teachers, choreographers, and directors.”

Ballet Scene Viva4

Photo by Todd Lechtick

Villella takes pride in his accomplishments at Miami City Ballet. “There were complications with the board, but I think we achieved what we set out to do,” he says. “From the ground up, we made a national and international company.” Now he relishes the idea of continuing to teach and coach, particularly at residencies and for master classes. “The things I don’t like doing are working for boards or raising money,” he says with a chuckle. (He is not responsible for raising money for the USA IBC.)

Having worked so closely with Balanchine and Jerome Robbins, he feels a responsibility to continue curating those choreographers’ works. “Those ballets took care of me,” says Villella. “In turn, it’s incumbent upon me to return that.” He has recently formed a close connection with the University of Arizona’s classical ballet program and has coached UA dancers in Balanchine works like Prodigal Son, Tarantella, and Who Cares? He has also been asked to teach at Rider University in New Jersey.

Villella stresses a dancer’s need to understand the “internal attacks, musicality, and speed” of Balanchine ballets from the inside out. “You have to understand the plié, getting in and out of the plié,” he says. “With Balanchine, the heel lands and you go, so there is a continuity. That is a very contemporary idea. I’d like more of that to become a conditioned reflex for dancers. I like the idea of looking back on our history with deep regard and respect, but not looking forward to our past.”

Last October, Villella premiered Reveries, his ice ballet for Ice Theatre of New York. An 11-minute piece set to Tchaikovsky, it’s a “lush romantic ballet about unattainable love,” he says. (Villella first choreographed for ice dancers in 1977, when he met his wife, a former world-champion skater.) Villella returned to performing briefly last November, doing a pre-recorded voice-over for Making Books Sing’s staged New York production of Ballerina Swan. This children’s book by former NYCB principal dancer Allegra Kent tells the story of Sophie, a swan who wants to become a ballerina. Villella gave voice to the character of Mr. Balletski, the choreographer who sounds suspiciously like Balanchine and gives Sophie a chance.

When asked to give a sample of Balletski’s voice, Villella laughs. Then, with a sniff, he intones his best Balanchine impersonation: “Well, deeeeeaaaar . . . I am Boll-et-ski. I know boll-ay. Come! Dance heeere!”






Center Stage’s “Charlie,” Sascha Radetsky, Sets Final Performance With ABT for July 3



Sascha Radetsky; photo by Fabrizio Ferri

Sascha Radetsky; photo by Fabrizio Ferri

Center Stage star Sascha Radetsky, an American Ballet Theatre soloist since 2003, will give his farewell performance with the company on July 3 at the Metropolitan Opera House in the role of Franz in Coppélia.

Radetsky was born in Santa Cruz, California. He studied on scholarship at the Kirov Academy in Washington, DC, and toured with the Kirov Ballet throughout the United States and internationally. He also studied on scholarship at the summer programs of the School of American Ballet, American Ballet Theatre’s School of Classical Ballet with Mikhail Baryshnikov, the San Francisco Ballet School, and the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Vail, Colorado.

Radetsky has performed in galas and festivals around the world and as a guest principal with companies such as Pacific Northwest Ballet, the Berlin Staatsballett, Ballet San Jose, Ballet do Theatro Municipal of Rio de Janeiro, the Mongolian State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet, and with the Dutch National Ballet as a principal dancer. In 2012, he choreographed for Bucknell University’s Department of Theatre and Dance.

He and his wife, ABT soloist Stella Abrera, were recently named repetiteurs-in-training with The Antony Tudor Ballet Trust. Radetsky will star in the Starz television series, Flesh and Bone, slated to air in 2015.

For more information, visit



Pre-Professionals Pay Tribute to Longtime Joffrey Teacher Francesca Corkle

Francesca Corkle and Kevin McKenzie; photo by Herbert Migdoll

Francesca Corkle and Kevin McKenzie; photo by Herbert Migdoll

The Joffrey Concert Group, a pre-professional performance company that prepares dancers for the world stage, will pay tribute to longtime Joffrey Ballet teacher Francesca Corkle during a May 19 performance at New York Live Arts.

Corkle, who danced with the Joffrey Ballet from 1969 to 1978, has spent the past 30 years teaching at the Joffrey Ballet School. Her significant impact on the lives of the students and her initiative to maintain the highest artistic integrity within the school is unparalleled, said a release from the school.

The 30-member troupe, who will also perform May 20, will present two signature works by Joffrey co-founder Gerald Arpino: Kettentanz (1971) and Light Rain (1981). Other pieces on the program include Entropy by Joffrey Concert Group artistic director Davis Robertson; world premieres by Shawn Hounsell (formerly with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet) and Africa Guzman (former associate director of Compañía Nacional de Danza under Nacho Duato), plus a New York premiere by Scott Rink, former Lar Lubovitch company dancer.

New York Live Arts is located at 219 West 19th Street (between 7th and 8th Avenues) New York City. Tickets are $25 general admission and $20 for students and seniors and can be purchased through New York Live Arts at



Stuttgart Ballet Choreographer Demis Volpi to Work with NBS Students as Guest Artist

Demis Volpi (center) with NBS students; photo courtesy NBS/FB

Demis Volpi (center) with NBS students;
photo courtesy NBS/FB

Stuttgart Ballet resident choreographer Demis Volpi will share his creative process and insight over the course of the next year at Canada’s National Ballet School as part of a new, multi-year initiative that will enable established artists of high international acclaim to engage with students in a collaborative creation process throughout a residency period.

Volpi, a NBS alumnus, has been selected as the first guest artist in NBS’ Koerner Guest Artists Program. In this role, Volpi will be engaging with NBS’ Professional Ballet Program (PBP) students, create new work, and also strive to connect with the wider community, including youth, through a series of public lectures, run-throughs, and observations.

“Demis Volpi is not only a choreographer of tremendous talent but also an artist who guides dancers of all ages with the utmost integrity, inspiring each to explore deeper ways to fully participate in the creative process,” said Mavis Staines, NBS artistic director and CEO.

Volpi, who graduated from NBS in 2002 and has created pieces for the John Cranko School, Hamburg Ballet School, and American Ballet Theatre, among others, will present a free public lecture at the Betty Oliphant Theatre, 404 Jarvis Street, Toronto, on May 13 at 7:30pm. Tickets can be reserved by calling 416.964.3780 x2128 or by emailing For more information, visit



Beloved NYC Teachers Honored by Students and Fans at Dancers Over 40 Event

Luigi; photo courtesy Facebook

Luigi; photo courtesy Facebook

The Dancers Over 40 organization presents “The Teachers We Love!”, a special celebration of some of New York City’s beloved tap, jazz, and ballet teachers, Monday at 7pm at St. Luke’s Theater, 308 West 46th Street.

Moderators Tony Waag, Mary Jane Houdina, Bob Boross, and Nicole Barth will lead the celebration that salutes teachers and “acknowledges the gifts these amazing teachers gave to all of us, and the history that they have passed on to all their ‘kids.’ ”

Teachers to be honored include Bob Audy, Phil Black, Gemze de Lappe, Marilyn D’Honau, Chuck Kelley, Bella Malinka, and Luigi. Special guests include Bob Boross, who will speak about the late jazz master Matt Mattox, and dancers Lyn Schwab, Stephen Reed, Jose de la Cuesta, Alan Onickel, Billie Mahoney, Carolyn Kirsch, and Amy Burgmaier.

Dancers Over 40 is an all-volunteer, membership-driven nonprofit arts organization dedicated to the preservation of the history, legacy, and lives of the mature creative community, and committed to sharing of this knowledge with the younger generation. The event will be videotaped and donated to the Jerome Robbins Dance Collection at Lincoln Center’s Library for the Performing Arts.

Tickets are $25 for Dancers Over 40 members at 212.947.8844 or online at; or $45 for non-members at 212.239.6200 or Students of Luigi and other students with “dance cards” can receive the DO40 discount in person at the St. Luke’s Box Office. For more information, visit


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July 2014
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